The Best Garmin Fitness Tracker Reviews
For the more outdoorsy and adventurous sect, Garmin has long been a frontrunner in the fitness wearables category. Known for their GPS capabilities and sporty design, Garmin continually provides users with new and innovative products. What sets them apart from other brands like Fitbit (and others) is their focus and commitment to performance. Garmin doesn’t just produce devices that look good, they make eye-catching models that can meet all your exercise and lifestyle needs. Whether you swim and need something waterproof, or cycle and need mapping, Garmin has a tracker to meet your needs. With many offerings currently in the market, how does one choose the best Garmin fitness tracker? Check out our detailed analysis below.
The Best Garmin Fitness Trackers
Fitness Tracking 101: Buying Considerations
Before we get into the best devices from Garmin, let’s make sure you know what you need and what to look for in a device. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself before you shop:
- What are you going to use the device for? Are you an athlete who needs interval training? Do you want a device that will help you hit daily goals? Why you want a tracker, and what you’ll use it for is an essential consideration. For instance, if you run, you’ll want enhanced GPS for run times and mile splits. See other Fitbit Trackers for reference. On the other hand, if you are beginner you’ll something with move alerts and heart monitoring to help you get on track with a routine.
- What is your budget? How much you want to spend is another important factor. Knowing what you want can help you avoid paying for extras you don’t need, saving you money.
- What is your lifestyle? Do you have kids? Do you live near water? These factors will help you customize your device. For instance, if you work in an office, you may want a traditional looking watch that doesn’t draw attention. However, if you are at the beach most of the time, you’ll need something that is waterproof
Discontinued & Discounted
Over the past year or so, Garmin has released a huge number of new wearable devices. Their newest models are more standard in the world of smartwatches and fitness trackers, and their latest products boast top of the line technology. Even so, older models have ranked consistently high on our lists and others’, so if you want to save some money and still get an excellent device, these are worth considering:
- Vivoactive HR: This smart GPS watch isn’t the most attractive GPS watch out there, but it’s a solid watch with great tracking features and good heart rate tracking. Currently, this now-discontinued watch is up to 40% off its original price, making it well worth a look.
- Vivosmart HR: Looking for a no-frills, heart rate monitoring, GPS activity tracker? Check out this one, currently available for almost 50% off the original price.
- Vivofit 3: A basic activity tracker that is water resistant and boasts a long battery life. Users love the Auto-Activity detection feature that initiates tracking when it recognizes a particular action, best ensuring accurate results are reflected on Garmin connect online.
The Other Contenders — Smartwatches
In 2017, Garmin entered the smartwatch market with the Vivoactive 3, a water-resistant, GPS-enabled smartwatch, and the hybrid Vivomove HR, a more fashionable smartwatch without GPS but with all of Garmin’s excellent tracking capabilities.
Both of these devices do the basic smartwatch stuff, such as provide smart notifications, but it’s easy to see the target customers for both. The Vivoactive 3 is sportier and the Vivomove HR is more elegant. The absence of GPS and contactless payments on the Vivomove makes it less appealing to athletes and fitness buffs, but the great design makes it perfect for everyday wear even in the dressiest scenarios. Read our comparison of the Vivoactive 3 versus the Vivomove HR here.
The Vivoactive 3 is our top Garmin smartwatch pick because of the built-in GPS and Garmin Pay. It also has a screen that’s easier to see in bright light. Though we like the Vivoactive better overall, the Vivomove HR is cheaper, so it’s a good option for those on a budget, or those who don’t need onboard GPS.
The Other Contenders — Multi-Sport Watches
Some of Garmin’s best known and best-reviewed devices fall under the “multi-sport watch” category. There are the highest number of wearables in this category as well, with 6 total available (plus watch-size dive computers and multi-sport marine watches). The Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935 are our top picks in this category, but the Forerunner 235 is still a really good watch with a smaller price tag.
The Fenix 5 is rugged and built to endure all kinds of indoor and outdoor sports. Its durability comes from its sturdy construction—including stainless steel bezel, pushers buttons, and a reinforced housing—and it features water resistance to 100 meters. The addition of GPS and GLONASS makes this a top choice for triathletes and marathoners, and a full spectrum of fitness and health tracking means that you will want to wear this all the time. Ongoing tracking of your training, data to help you improve your form, and a multitude of activities, maps, and more make this a sports watch that truly goes the distance.
The Fenix 5 comes in several variations, including Sapphire, 5S, and 5X. These distinctions have to do with the look, whether the watch has sapphire glass, and/or whether the watch is Wi-Fi enabled or includes preloaded topographical maps. Be sure to check the specs on the Fenix you’re shopping for before you buy. Find it at Amazon.
The Forerunner 935 is slightly less expensive than the Fenix, and it’s a bit more lightweight as well. Beyond that, it’s basically the same as a Fenix in terms of tracking and multi-sport capabilities. Like the Fenix, the FR935 has excellent battery life and offers GPS and GLONASS, water resistance, and plenty of tracking functions.
The difference between these two is very minimal, but the Fenix is more durable and has more (expensive) options for models, so for some it is more appealing. The biggest draw for shoppers when comparing the two is design. The FR is significantly lighter than the Fenix, making it a less intrusive everyday wearable. It will also save you a bit of cash.
- Forerunner 235: A great GPS sports watch with long battery life, lightweight construction, and a price tag on par with Fitbit and Apple smartwatches. It’s best for runners. See our full review here.
- Forerunner 35: A bit more budget-friendly (under $200), the 35 has GPS but not GLONASS, has plenty of metrics but not advanced metrics, and is lightweight but not super attractive. It’s still a good option for plenty of shoppers, however. It’s just not the best Garmin has to offer.
- Forerunner 735: The 735 is mid-price for a Garmin sport watch. It’s going to give you more metrics and better durability than the 35 or 235, as well as some smartwatch features. It’s excellent as a multi-sport watch but doesn’t feel as well-made as our top picks.
The Other Contenders — Fitness Trackers
Vivosport, Vivosmart 3, & Vivofit 4
In the fitness and activity tracking category, Garmin offers three affordable options at different price points. They are not perfect fitness trackers, but they perks and are definitely worth checking out. We like the Vivosport the best out of the three, but it’s also the most expensive at just over $150. That extra cost gets you built-in GPS, long battery life, and a screen that’s much improved over past trackers.
Related: Vivosport vs. Vivosmart 3
The Vivosmart 3 is a mid-priced fitness tracker at under $150: it’s un-flashy but comfortable to wear and it has some great tracking features including sleep and stress tracking. Until the release of the Vivosport, this was our favorite Garmin tracker, and we even preferred some its features over the Fitbit Charge 2 (see our comparison of the two here).
The Vivofit 4 comes in well under $100, making it a worthy opponent to Fitbit’s $150+ fitness trackers, and pitting it against smaller brands that tout small price tags. It can be buggy, but for simple step tracking, sleep tracking, and other basic activity tracking features, you can’t be the price.
- Read our full review of the Vivosport here
- Read the full review of the Vivosmart 3 here
- Read the full review of the Vivofit 4 here
For Kids: Vivofit Jr. 2
Garmin offers an activity tracker for kids that encourages movement and responsibility. With rewards, challenges, and a comfortable, water-resistant design, it’s one of the best activity trackers on the market for kids.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S
This latest update to the Vivoactive model range is a welcome one. We were already real fond of the Vivoactive 3, and this update adds a host of new features, including making onboard music/music streaming standard (previously it was an optional feature). The impressive battery life allows for extended periods of usage while listening to music. With the Vivoactive 4S, expect up to five hours and up to six hours with the Vivoactive 4. This makes either model the perfect companion for long-distance competition like marathons.
It is also available in two sizes—the 4 is 45mm across, and the 4s is 40mm across. For those with smaller wrists this is a very welcome change, as the 40mm is much more comfortable and discreet on the wrist. If you struggle with exercise regimens that become boring, Vivoactive comes equipped with GPS, an indoor sports app, and 20+ preloaded programs to help keep things varied. Although there’s no VO2 max option, there’s more than enough to make it easy to switch things up regularly.Read the Full Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S Review
2. Garmin Vivomove HR
The Vivomove HR is a great option for someone looking for a daily-wear smartwatch that has reasonable fitness tracking capability without having the aesthetics of a conventional fitness tracker. Its screen quality and lack of GPS are its weakest points overall. It’s the more urban offering of Garmin’s extensive collection.
Users enjoy an extensive battery life of up to five days in smart mode and two weeks in watch mode. Although there’s no Garmin Pay option, the Vivomove HR’s fashionable look and varied fitness tracking make it a good overall value.Read the Full Garmin Vivomove HR Review
3. Garmin Fenix 6
The range-topping Garmin Fenix 6 won’t be for everyone, but with the longest battery life and largest screen in the game, this GPS watch is no joke. It’s engineered with the hardcore adventurer in mind, it has built in mapping for topography, ski hills (over 2,000 resorts), golf courses (over 41,000 courses), and it uses Multi-GNSS support for more accurate mapping in areas where GPS struggles. All this comes with a steep price tag, but for those looking for the best in the segment, this is pretty much it.
An extensive battery life is one of the primary features of the Fenix 6. While battery-saver mode will extend users up to 48 days of use, you can use GPS for up to 36 hours and GPS + music for an impressive 10 hours. Although it’s a little heavier than other Garmin models at 72-83 grams, the PacePro Technology that offers grade-adjusted guidance as you run a course makes it worth it.Read the Full Garmin Fenix 6 Review
4. Garmin Forerunner 945
The Forerunner line from Garmin is also one that caters to a specific subset of fitness—specifically those focused on running and triathlon (obviously). Aside from all of the usual bells and whistles—GPS, onboard music, contactless payment, etc—the Forerunner 945 packs in several running-specific apps to help you train. What’s most impressive is its ability to accurately log your running cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation, and even vertical ratio. With this much information you’ll be well equipped to fine-tune your stride before the next big run.
The Forerunner 945 even offers features to keep you safe. The full color, built-in map makes it easy to stay on track, and the LifeTrack feature allows friends and family to follow your real-time location and know exactly where you’re running. This makes the Forerunner 945 a great fit for teen athletes.Read the Full Garmin Forerunner 945 Review
5. Garmin Forerunner 645
The FR 645 is a pretty exciting watch from Garmin. It has many of the best features found on premium watches like the FR 945 and Fenix 6, but it costs a fair bit less. You can even save a few bucks by choosing the non-music model if that’s not something you’ll use.
For athletes, triathletes, runners, and marathoners, the multisport modes, open water tracking, and durable design of the more expensive watches are worth the extra money. But for nearly everyone else, the 645 offers basically everything you can need from a smart running watch.Read the Full Garmin Forerunner 645 Review